Seiu Ito

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Seiu Ito

Ito (伊藤) family name, Seiu (晴雨) first name, (male, 1882-1961)



Headline text

Ito Seiu is the de facto founder of Sm in the Showa era (1925 -1989). Born on March 3rd 1882, since his early years he was strongly attracted to the scenes of torture in stories and theatre plays and he produced many works showing photographs or pictures of torture or Kinbaku, using as model his wife or his mistress.

He started as an illustrator working in newspapers at the end of the Meiji era. But he soon distinguished himself as a theater critic, and rose to the position of head of the performing art section and mian illustrator for the Yomiuri newspaper. At the beginning of the Taisho period (1912), he met by chance Sasaki Kaneko (Oha) and Sahara Kise two women who had some understanding of kinbaku abd he deepened his study of torture images and torture photography. In the closing years of the Taisho era (1926), he rode the popularity wave of the Eroguro movement and attracted attention as a “painter of perversion”. In 1928 he published the first photo book of kinbaku [Seme no Kenkyu – research on torture], which was immediately forbidden by the authorities.

Before the war, through the editor Suikodo Shoten, he published a large number of collections of graphic works when he was at the height of his art. But this period was unavoidably interrupted by the second world war. After the war, he was active as a writer in the “castori” magazines such as the magazines Ningen Tankyu, Kitan Club or Fuzoku Zoshi. In addition, he organized very frequent photo sessions and the resulting photos can be seen as “photos in the Seiyu way” in magazines like Fuzoku Zoshi, Fusoku Kitan or Uramado. During the Taisho period (1912-1926) he had already established theater groups whose plays were centered on torture scenes, and in 1953 he started the “Seme no Gekidan” (the Torture Theater Group) which performed at Ichikawa Suzumoto Theater in Tokyo and other places.

He can be described without exaggeration as the tutelary genius of SM in the Showa (1926-1989) era and his activities as theater artist, performing arts critic, painter of torture scene, kinbakushi are on a scale, which is hard to grasp, while his work as an historian which culminated in his book “Iroha Hiki – Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi “ about the various tools and crafts of old Tokyo is considered as a masterpiece of the highest caliber.

Alternate Name(s)

伊藤晴雨(Japanese), Hajime Ito (伊藤一, real name)


Born March 3rd 1882, in Tokyo, Asakusa district, Kinryusan Kudarikawara 5 as the eldest son of Ito Kintaro a metal engraver.

1890: is accepted as an apprentice by Nozawa Teiu, a member of the Edo based Korinha school of drawing. When roughly 9 years old discovers his obsession with the perfume of women’ hair and punishment scenes in theater plays.

1891 Receives from his mother a copy of the story of Chujou Hime (Princess Chujou). The scene of torture in the snow leaves a strong impression

1892 Goes with his parents to the theater Honsho Kotobukiza and watches a performance of Yoshida Otono’s “Maneku Furusode” (an inviting kimono sleeve); the scene of torture leaves a profound mark on his mind.

1894 Starts as apprentice with the elephant tusk ivory carver Naito Yasukazu in the district of Honzo Ku Aioi Machi (Tokyo)

1895 Starts to collect pictures related to torture.

1896 Starts to draw advertisement for theater plays.

1896 June Goes to the Aoki theater in the Tokyo district of Hoingo to watch “Nisshin Senso Youchi no Kyutan” (raid nocturne during the Nishiin war) a play in the Zoushishibai ( Outlaw Theater) where a scene of torture of a nurse leaves a deep impression.

1898 While still an apprentice with the ivory carver, uses its moments of leisure to draw ropes of illustrations of women published in the Tokyo Asahi newspaper.

1899 In the Tokiwaza Theater in Asakusa, is strongly impressed by the torture chamber in the play Akumabarai (sweep away the demons) of Misuno Koubi.

1905 with the intention of becoming a painter, terminates his apprenticeship with the ivory carver and moves to Kyoto. Tries different occupation in succession but finally returns to Tokyo.

1907 Joins the Maiseki Shinbun published in the Nihonbashi, Tokyo district as drawing journalist. He is put in charge of illustrating “Yomashima” the Ghost Island by writer Arigawa Akikusa

1909 Joins the Yamato Shinbun Sha located in Kyobashi, Tokyo in charge of illustrations, while still remaining in charge of the theater critic at the Maiseki Shinbun, he then joined the Yomiuri Shinbum where he was promoted to head of illustrations.

1909 Through an arranged introduction he married Takeo, the younger sister of the wife of Tamaki Terunobu (1879-1953) a scenery painter of the Shinpa (new school) movement. Around that time, having stabilized his source of income and although he received numerous commissions for illustration, most of his revenue was spent in entertainment.

1916 He strted a relationship with hie model Sasaki Kaneyo (“Oha”) and starts drawing his first torture illustrations.

1918 Sasaki Kaneyo starts living with Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934) painter and poet.

1919 Starts the “Kaidan Kai” Ghost Stories Society in the park Hyakkaen in Mukojima, Tokyo with Hirayama Rokko (1881-1953) writer, Miyake Kogen (1886-1951) writer, (Izumi Kyoka (1873-1939) writer, Kubota Mantaro (1889-1963) writer, Kinjo Saitenzan (the 3rd)(1863-1935) kaidanka, Ii Yoho (1871-1932) Hanayagi Shotaro (1894-1965) actor and gives a single representation

1919 Divorce from Takeo and marries as his second wife Sahara Kisei

1919 With his second wife takes in his garden photos of snow torture. The photographer is YuuKa.

1920 In autumn makes his fist attempt at suspension with his wife Kisei. Also suspends his wife’s younger daughter in his workshop and takes some photos.

1921 (June) With his pregnant wife Kisei makes the “Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin” i.e the “Photo in inverted suspension of a beautiful woman in her last month of pregnancy”

1921 Suzuki Senzaburo (1893-1924) theater writer publishes “Hi Aburi” “Burnt by Fire” a play based on the life of Ito Seiyu.

1923 Borrowing a farmers house in Shimotakaido from his deshi Sakamoto Gajou takes with photographer Suzuki Kaminarisui photos of snow torture. The house was noted for his plum tree in the garden, a feature Seiu appreciated.

1923 Big Kanto Earthquake. The Itou residence avoids fire damage.At this time he had lent the “Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin” to his friend Tomitsuka Kenzo. It will eventually be published in the December 1936 issue of Hentai Shiryou. The same year publishes “Iroha Hiki – Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi” “Private History of Edo and Tokyo Customs, taken from the Iroha “

1924 Publishes in the Sunday mainichi photos of torture of Kisei. Acquires a reputation for perversion.

1925 (summer) starts a theater group concentrating on torture scenes.

1926 (December) Publication of Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin in the magazine Hentai Shiriou (Pervert Documents) without his authorization. Accompanied by “Rinketsu no josei no tsukasazuri” inverse suspension of a woman in her last month of pregnancy “ by ***

1927 publication of the first tome of “Iroha Hiki, Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi” by ***

1928 publishes the first ever photo book of Kinbaku “Seme no Kenkyuu” Research on torture” immediately forbidden.

1930 works as contributors and editors for the Kodanzasshi.

1931 His third wife is fighting a psychological illnees and he is forced to go inot debt

1932 Publishes “Bijin Ranpu” (the ecstatic dance of the beautiful women)

1932 Publishes he 6th tome of his “ Iroha Hiki – Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi “

1933 Starts his second theater group

1945 Loses his entire house during the Great Tokyo Air Raid

1947 In the fourth issue of the magazine Rioki publishes “Shitagerataru Nijon Fujin” “The Japanese married woman who wanted to be oppressed”

1950 In Asakusa (Tokyo) Hyakumandoru Gekijo (million dollars theater) gives representations of torture theater

1951(April) Until at least January 1954 exchange letters with ****

1951 Publishes a series of essays in the magazine Ningen Tankyuu

1951 To celebrate the launch of the magazine Amatoria takes part in a group travel (80 person) to the onsen resort of **** in Izu.

1951 “Mesoku***” edited by Ito Seiyuu and intended as a supplement to be published inside Amatoria becomes a problem and is finally detached from the magazine.

1953 In the January issue of Kitan Club publihese a short piece describing his thoughts about ****

1953 Starts his fourth “Seme No Gekidan” Torture Theater Group with its activity centered around the Nakamura Za (theatre Nakamura) 1953 (June 4th) the group gives its first representation in the theater Ishikawa Suzumoto

1953 (July) second group of representations at the theater Nakamura Za

1954 Meets for the first time in person with Suma Toshiyuki

1954 (28 January) The NHK makes an interview about “Seme no Kenkyuu" (research on torture) which is broadcasted on radio on the 29 January on the NHK first channel.

1955 Photographer Kawaguchi Hiroshi pays a visit to Itou Seiu which is the start of amicable relationship.

1956 Enters in relation with Tsujimura Takashi

1960 Receives as illustrator a price from the Federation of Fine Art Publishers.

1961 Passes away. At his funeral Takahashi Tetsuo, Suma Toshiyuki, Ueda Seijiro, Tanaka Masahisa are present

1966 Dan Oniroku novel “Ryoki no Hate” (At the extreme of hunting for the bizarre) takes Itou Seiu as model.

1968 In the December issue of Kitan Club, Dan Oniroku publishes “Shihon Itou Seiu Monogatri” (Personal writingon the story of Itou Seiu).

1969: Some discussions are held with the Toei fil Company by Dan Oniroku to make a movie on the life of Ito Seiyu. An agreement is not reached.

1977 Movie company Nikkatsu produces the movie “Hakkinhon Bijinranpu yori Semeru” (from the forbidden book “ecstatic dance of the beautiful women” Torture!)

1978 In the theater Jiyu Gekijo (Free theater), Tamai*** puts out the play “Kiden ItouSeiyu” (Bizarre stories Itou Seiyu)

1996 Dan Oniroku publishes a chronic of Itou Seiyu “sotomichi no mure” (the herd of the exterior road)

2002 Sotomichi no Mure is adapted to the movies under the title “Oyou”

Selected Works

- Irohahiki Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi 6vols 1922-1932

- Seme No Kenkyu (Research on Torture) 1928

- Seme no Hanashi (Histories of Torture) 1929-9

- Rongo Tsukai (Explanation of Text)) 1930

- Onna Sanjuroku Kioku (36 remembrances of women)1930

- Bijin Ranmai (Ecstatitc Dance of Beautiful Women)1932

- Nihon Hentai Keibatsu Gabu (Perverse images of punishment in Japan) 1930

- Hitoniku Shijo (Human flesh market) 1947

- Nihon Taibatsu Fuzoku Toshi (上、下) (Graphic History of Punishment in Japan (in 2 volumes) in collaboration with Fujisawa Ehiko) 1948

- Seme no Kenkyu 1950 ( a reprint of the 1928 book)

- Seizetsu Jotai Komon Shikei Higashu” (Image Collection of Extreme Torture and Private Punishment of Women Bodies)

- Seme No Korekushon

- Bijin Juniji Sene Emaki (Scroll of Twelve Beauties in Torture)


There is a full bibliography in Japanese in the related article on Ito Seiyu in SMpedia. We have listed here books on Ito Seiyu, which are likely to be of value for the reader who does not read Japanese text.

伊藤晴雨集 (Ito Seiu Collected Images) March 1997 ISBN: 978-4107200433

伊藤晴雨・晴雨秘帖 The Secret Noteboks of Seiu ed: 二見書房 May 2002 ISBN: 978-4576020891

江戸と東京風俗野史 (Private History of Manners in Edo and Tokyo) A re-edition of Seiu’s work on Tokyo craftsmen and daily life, not SM related ed: 有光書房 1997 ASIN: B000JA9AFW

日本刑罰風俗図史 (上、中、下) Graphic History of Customs relative to Punishment in Japan in 3 volumes ed: 粋古堂1948 ASIN: B000JB9BSC The same book in modern re-edition in one volume ed: 国書刊行会 April 2010 ISBN: 978-4336052179

安田コレクション5 地獄の女 論語通解 The Yasuda Collection Vol 5 A reproduction of “Woman From Hell” and “Rongo tsukai” The 5th tome of a series of 9 books dedicated to the collection of erotic books amassed by Yoshida Ashiaki (1918-2008) one of the foremost expert on Japanese erotica in the 20th century (only the 5th volume contains works by Itou Seiu). Private printing, no ISBN.

Related Persons

Sawada Joujirou (1892-1929) Actor and theater administrator, founder of the Shinkokugeki a theater group

Zoganoya Goro (1877-1948) Actor and dramaturge.

Ichimura Uzaemon (the 15th) 1874-1945 One of the representative Kabuki actor of the Taisho and early Showa period.

Onoe Keigo (1870-1934) (the 6th) Famous Kabuki Onnagata actor.

Natsumi Ryutarou (1905-1989) Actor, belonged to the Shinkokugeki movement.

Kitamura Rokurou (1871-1961) Kabuki onnagata actor and member of the Shinpageki, a theater genre established in 1888.

Mizutani Yaeko (1905-1979) Actress, representative of the Shinpageki, which she headed after the death in 1965 of Hanayagi Shoutarou.

Hasegawa Shin (1884-1963) Novelist and theater writer.

Edogawa Ranpo (1894-1965) Novelist, first and foremost Japanese crime novel writer.

Iwata Sentaro (1901-1974) Painter, illustrator, Adviser for period movies.

Shikiba Ryusaburo (1898-1965) Psychiatrist, art critic and close friend of Mishima Yukio.

Miyao Shigeo (1902-1982) Illustrator and Specialist of Edo culture.

Suma Toshiyoki (aka Kita Reiko) (1920-1992) SM Illustrator.

Konkontei Imasuke the 5th (1998-1976) Rakugoka.



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